Recently, I was asked to contribute to a yet-to-be-posted article for the CBS Sports website as a representative of the sporting community of the city of Houston. The contribution was a simple one — answer the question "Who is the most hated current NFL player in your city?"
It seems like a pretty simple question, until you realize that there are so many different underlying reasons to sports-hate somebody. Does he repeatedly torture your favorite team as a member of the opposition? Did he torpedo a season (or seasons) as a member of your team? Is he just a general embarrassment to himself and the game, independent of any geographical consideration?
In the end, I decided to be democratic about things and I put the question to the audience of my radio show, who proceeded to flood our station's text line with their "votes." I counted them up as quickly as one can semi-accurately count a steady stream of texts while on the air in drive time in the nation's fourth-largest city.
As it turns out, the player I would have used in answering the request from the CBS Sports folks is the same one that Houston chose, so I felt somewhat validated. However, additionally, I decided to tally up the votes and cobble together the top ten, and share them with you here! (It's impossible to sports-hate me, right? Um, RIGHT?!?)
The only qualification for the list is that the player must be on a current roster or still be listed as a free agent in his Wikipedia biography. He can't be officially retired.
So without further ado, from your smartphones to God's ears, here are the ten most sports-hated NFL players...
10. TONY ROMO
Even though the Texans play the Cowboys only once every four years in games that count, Dallas must be represented on here in some way. Apparently, Texans fans have a hard time forgetting the last time the two teams hooked up, back in 2014, when Romo's superhero power (the power of elusiveness) outdid J.J. Watt's superhero power (being really awesome at football).
9. MATT SLAUSON
Albert Haynesworth received a bunch of votes, but the formerly fat defensive lineman who broke Matt Schlub's foot in 2011 (and ruined the Texans' best shot at a Super Bowl) is retired, so I decided to proxy all of his votes to Slauson, whose dirty hit on linebacker Brian Cushing put a huge crimp in the Texans' defense in 2012.
8. ZACH METTENBERGER
J.J. Watt seems to, at the very least, hate Zach Mettenberger's act (selfies!), which is enough for dozens of you to hate him more than humidity and mosquitoes.
7. BRIAN HOYER
Now we start to get into some hardcore, psychiatrist's-chair sort of sports-hate — the kind where you loathe the men who took down your own team from within. To be fair, none of them did so intentionally. They just couldn't help themselves. We start with Hoyer, whose four interceptions and fumble lost led directly to the Texans' 30-0 loss to the Chiefs in January:
6. JACOBY JONES
Speaking of cause and effect in a playoff loss, this muff of a punt in Baltimore led to Jacoby Jones's being waived by the Texans (and subsequently becoming a playoff hero for the Ravens themselves the next season...damn you, football gods).
5. ANDREW LUCK
Andrew Luck is on here at No. 5 for two reasons — 1. He's had a ton of success against the Texans in just four short years, and 2. Peyton Manning is retired and ineligible for the list, so Luck is representing Manning (the Colts version) as well.
4. T.Y. HILTON
If Luck is on the list, Hilton has to be on here as well. No receiver has singlehandedly destroyed the Texans' secondary over the past four years more than Hilton — eight games, 43 catches, 778 yards, 18 yards per catch...and one fantastic good-bye wave last season.
3. JOHNNY MANZIEL
Because by now, pretty much everyone hates Johnny, regardless of what city they're in.
2. CORTLAND FINNEGAN
If Bob McNair ever decides to build a statue outside of NRG Stadium for any player, please let it be a statue of Andre Johnson beating the ever-loving piss out of Finnegan back in 2010.
1. MATT SCHAUB
Matt Schaub seems like a nice guy. His teammates all seem to really like him personally, and he did a ton of great things for the community. If you're wondering whether all of that cancels out a franchise-crippling storm of pick-sixes, the answer is "No...Not even close."
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.